Usury is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans which come with excessive or abusive interest rates.In other words the type that pretty much what every bank or building society sells every day of the week to most of us mere mortals at some time during our lives. Historically, Christian and Islamic cultures have regarded charging any interest for loans as sinful simply because the lender is making money out of time, time is God-given and therefore not the lender’s to sell. Recently,the Newcastle striker Papiss Cissé pulled out of the pre-season training camp in Portugal following a row over wearing the club sponsor Wonga’s logo, because he is a devout Muslim.And it is quite appropriate that today the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, “declared War on Wonga” and other payday loan firms who lend money to those who can least afford it and charge a scarily high amount of interest for the privilege.
Justin Welby vowed to help increase Britain’s 500 financial co-operatives, who lend at nowhere near the astronomical 5,853 per cent rate offered by the controversial payday lender.Some have called for the payday loan companies to be banned but the Archbishop said that it is his dream to ‘compete’ Wonga out of existence, and has even met its boss Errol Damelin to warn him.The Chancellor,George Osborne has been quick to back the move saying that he is ‘all in favour of credit unions and all sorts of other channels whereby families can get credit.’
I must admit the idea of credit unions appeals; they are essentially money clubs – set up by a group of individuals as a co-operative to allow members to save and borrow money.But for those who have a short-term and immediate financial crisis, it is likely that a credit union may not be the answer.It is also worth noting that credit unions whilst not charging the exhorbitant rates of the payday loan companies, will still charge interest but at a far lower rate.Archbishop Welby plans to expand the reach of credit unions by giving them access to Church of England properties and facilitate their connections to the communities at a local level as part of a long-term campaign to boost competition in the banking sector and offer an alternative borrowing ( far cheaper) option to the public.There are also plans to encourage church members with relevant skills to volunteer at credit unions. Small,local peer to peer lenders such as Zopa could also be invited to use church buildings and other community locations with the help of church members.It all sounds quite neighbourly, a community whereby everybody helps each other, the church and its congregation thus sticking to Biblical principles.
In most secular nations such as France,Gemany and the USA this would be an anathema to the Banking and Finacial institutions,however in England we are not a secular state we are a Christian state with the Queen as head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith,therefore one has to ask the question how did the global financial and banking industry, both built on charging interest on loans end up with London as its world’s headquarters? Surely we now need the Queen to make an announcement about the evils of banks and payday lenders charging enormous rates of interest on loans. We as a nation can’t expect to be selective in what parts of the Christian doctrine we accept; either we are a Christian nation (which we are) or we’re not. Of course this dichotomy of morality is at the very core of the discussion on religion and the state and it’s time for an honest an open debate about the spirituality and governaNce of our country.